ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Long-term Abilene resident, Edward Sheppard took us to a familiar place of his childhood, Stevenson Park. This place, he said, was made special by a beloved Abilene coach, James E. Valentine.  

“This is where I spent my whole summer,” Sheppard said about what is now known as Lee Park, next to Stafford Elementary School.

James E. Valentine was a successful coach, who would later move to Jefferson Junior High. He was best known by most, simply as “Coach.” Sheppard told KTAB/KRBC Valentine was more than that, “he taught us how to respect ourselves.”

Now, Valentine’s former players want to honor his legacy in a new way.  

“To give us the opportunity to tell our grandkids and great-grandkids about this great man,” said Sheppard about the chance to change the park. 

Former athlete, Tony Philips, said he first met Valentine in middle school. Meeting Coach Valentine at such a young age created a special bond that Philips said he’d never forget. 

“He was the first and only black coach I ever had,” Phillips explained. “I played sports and he was the only one.”

Because of the many young lives Valentine helped mold, Philips said there is no better person to represent the park.

“Representation is everything and I’m so glad that he did what he did in his life,” Philips said. “He deserves to have this park name after him.”

The next Parks and Recreation meeting will be held Tuesday, May 17, as a committee is set in place to decide the park’s new name.